Last revised: 06/28/99
Last modified: 07/24/99
Relena is generally portrayed as being rather clueless. But what if Relena actually *knew* something that none of the other Gundam pilots did? What if she was the only one who realizes the sinister truth about Duo Maxwell? What if she was <gasp> RIGHT!?
MAXWELL'S DEMON: A Gundam Wing fanfic by Madamhydra
(a "Relena Knows Something" dark romantic comedy)
(AKA, the fable of "The Girl Who Cried 'Heero!' Too Often")
WARNING: shonen-ai, mild yaoi, characters wildly OOC...
I'd like credit Joyce K. Wakabayashi's terrific story "Death and the Soldier", as much of the inspiration and background for "Maxwell's Demon". ^_^ Please check out her other great GW fics at her website called "Gundam Wing on Acid"!
Short Disclaimer: (Full Disclaimers at the end) Gundam Wing copyrighted
by its respective creators and all distributors of their
work and used without permission.
"MAXWELL'S DEMON" - An idea of famed physicist James Clerk Maxwell proposing a 'demon' (a device or entity) who could theoretically do an impossible task -- violate the second law of thermodynamics by making heat flow backward from cold to hot. Basically something that presumably allows you to do something which otherwise might be statistically unlikely. ^_^
"Get out! Get out!" came an outraged female scream.
Relena Peacecraft's band of groupies never would have recognized their idol as she screamed at the suspicious-looking man who hastily scuttled away from her wrath. Now alone in her office, she stared down at the photos scattered all over her desk, her eyes bulging in rage.
She grabbed one and tore it to shreds, then started on another.
"This... this can't BE!!! There's NO way this can be true!!!"
At that moment, some foolhardy soul knocked on the door.
"What do you want!?" the Peacecraft snarled. Hell hath no wrath like a woman scorned....
Her secretary timidly poked her head into the room and said in a quivering voice, "Relena-sama, someone dropped off this package for you. He said it was VERY important and that you absolutely HAD to see them! He ran off before I could stop him, but he said that you'd know how to contact him."
Relena snatched the package from her secretary's hand and slammed the door in the poor woman's face. She then torn open the envelope, yanked out a handful of photos, and glared at them.
Then the color drained from her face.
"Oh no... oh no... oh no... it can't be...."
She shuffled hastily through the stack of large prints. "Unbelievable...."
But as she
stared at the pictures with a horrified expression, she muttered, "Of course. That's the only POSSIBLE explanation!"
[two days later]
The waiting had been so hard. Trying to locate him had been difficult enough, but then having to wait for the right moment to approach him.... But she hadn't wasted the opportunity. She made arrangements, devised backup plans....
Relena slung her oversized purse over her shoulder like a soldier shouldering his backpack. She knew what she had to do and she wasn't about to let a little thing like mortal danger stop her. For the sake of love, Relena Peacecraft was prepared to go to any lengths to save the man of her dreams.
Standing outside their current safehouse, the cobalt-eyed Gundam pilot, otherwise known as Heero Yuy, turned to see the all too familiar sight of Relena rushing toward him.
"Go away," he said flatly.
Relena blatantly ignored the words and glomped onto him. As she clung to him like a starved leech, she babbled, "Oh god, I'm so glad to see you! I've been absolutely frantic! You can't imagine how worried I've been! I was afraid that I wouldn't be able to find you in time!"
Heero scowled at her as he wondered if he should use his full strength to free himself and risk injury to Relena. He was seriously contemplating it. His frown deepened as she continued with her incoherent mutterings. What the hell was the matter with the girl? She was prone to gushing all over him, but she had never been THIS bad.
He involuntarily winced as she wailed, "Hee-eerrooo! I have to warn you about the terrible danger you're in!"
"Then stop wasting time moaning about it and just tell me," he replied in his usual distant monotone.
Heero barely managed to keep himself from backing
away as she leaned VERY close to him, her eyes swimming with tears of relief.
She opened her mouth just as a familiar husky voice cheerfully spoke up
right beside her.
"Yeah, why don't you just spit it out?"
Relena suddenly went rigid. Then ever so slowly, she turned her head to find Duo Maxwell grinning playfully at her from only a few inches away.
An earsplitting shriek of terror tore through the air and kept going... and going... and going....
"Owww!" yelped Duo, his head ringing from the sound of Relena's scream going off only inches from his ears. He hastily scuttled away, his hands protectively clapped over his abused hearing organs.
Heero had endured battle injuries, gunshots, broken legs and enemy torture with barely a grimace, but this time, he couldn't stop himself from visibly cringing. He would have followed Duo's example and tried to flee the scene, except Relena continued to cling to his waist like a limpet.
Wufei exploded from the bushes, sword in hand, followed rapidly by Quatre and Trowa, both armed with guns.
"What!? What!?" the Chinese pilot snapped, his black ponytail lashing wildly about as he searched for the enemy. But the only people he could see was Relena who looked as if she was doing her best to get closer to Heero than his spandex shorts -- an obvious impossibility -- and Duo, who was now sitting on the ground doing his best to stuff his braid into his ears to muffle the sound of Relena's shrieks.
Trowa's and Quatre's relatively soft voices were no match for Relena in full cry so it was left to Wufei to do his best to shout her down. The cacophony went on until finally even Relena ran out of breath. Still clinging desperately to Heero, she ducked behind him, her bosom heaving as she gulped for air.
A thoroughly exasperated Wufei bellowed, "WOMAN, WHAT THE HELL'S WRONG WITH YOU!?!?"
Peeking warily around the Wing Gundam pilot, she shouted, "Heero, you're in terrible danger! You've got to kill the unholy monster before he tries to destroy you and devour your soul!"
"WHAT monster?" Heero growled ominously.
"HIM!!!" she replied, pointed a quivering finger directly at Duo.
For once, Duo was left totally speechless, his clear, blue-violet eyes widening in utter disbelief. His mouth opened and closed a few times as Quatre and Trowa exchanged dubious looks. Wufei slammed his sword back in its sheath in disgust. Finally, all Duo could do was wiggle his fingers in little circling motions beside his head in the familiar gesture denoting total insanity.
They all ended up inside the safehouse, Relena being forcibly escorted in by Wufei after he managed to pry her off of Heero. As for the Gundam Wing pilot, he was sticking close to Duo, although it was unclear just who was protecting whom.
"All right, woman, explain yourself!" the Chinese pilot snapped.
"I TOLD you what's going on! He's a monster!" she said in a hostile, snippy tone as she jabbed a long-nailed finger at Duo.
The long-haired pilot groaned and rolled his eyes. "What did I do to deserve this!?"
Heero snorted before saying, "Duo, what are you doing back so early? You were supposed to be gone all afternoon."
"It didn't take me as long as I thought to get the parts, so I decided to come back. Now I'm wishing I hadn't! Man, I thought this was my lucky day. So much for THAT!" muttered Duo.
Relena quietly fumed. It had been so difficult to find a chance to speak to Heero alone, then that... that monster had to screw things up by showing up early!
Quatre, looking adorably confused, said, "You know, I'd say that this was a rather bad and tasteless joke, except I didn't think Miss Peacecraft made jokes, at least not like this."
Duo sighed and leaned over toward her. In a quiet voice, he said, "Listen, Relena. I know you don't like me much, but don't you think you're carrying this whole thing -- whatever it is -- a bit too far?"
Relena know exactly what the demonic monster was up to. It wanted to cut some sort of deal. Duo was giving her a chance to back down and pretend that it was all some sort of prank or plot. But how stupid did he think she was? Aside from making herself look like a fool or a jealous harridan, just how long would he let her live, now that HE knew that SHE knew all about him?
She glared at him and shouted, "Why won't you people believe me!?" Relena then pounced on Heero again, clenching his arm. "Please Heero! I know all about those horrible... horrible, obscene, unnatural ACTS that he made you perform."
Duo sputtered, "Say WHAT!?!? What do you mean by 'obscene acts'...." His voice abruptly trailed off, then his jaw dropped. "You don't MEAN... you DO!!! How the hell did you know about that!?"
"I have pictures!"
Quatre was unfortunate enough to be drinking a glass of water at that moment. When he choked, gasped, and started to turn a color that clashed alarmingly with his pink shirt, Trowa quickly started to pound him on the back.
As Heero gave her THE LOOK(tm), she babbled passionately, "Snap out of it! Don't listen to him! Don't let him control your mind!"
"EXCUSE ME!?!?" Duo yelled at the top of his lungs.
She glared at him and hissed, "I know what you've been doing! You can't keep your slimy hands off of him! You're probably planning to suck him dry, then eat every inch of him!"
Strangely, it was Wufei who started to turn extremely red in the face.
Twice within the same hour, Duo was left totally speechless.
Gently rubbing the still wheezing Quatre on the back, Trowa calmly said, "We really don't have time to waste on this baseless accusations of yours...."
"They're NOT baseless! I HAVE proof Duo Maxwell's a horrible diabolical monster!"
Wufei muttered, "Then let's see it, woman!"
Relena suddenly looked flustered.
"Well, put up or shut up!" growled the Chinese pilot, who still looked just a trifle flushed.
"I HAD proof, but I don't have it anymore!" Relena finally spat out in a frustrated voice.
Duo rolled his eyes and muttered, "Oi! I bet she's going to say that a dog ate it or something!"
Her face went white and she edged closer to Heero who gave Relena a narrow-eyed glare.
"If that's not proof...." she whispered breathlessly, wide-eyed with shock. "How else could you know?"
"Know WHAT!?" Duo shouted, yanking on his braid in aggravation. Maybe if he tugged hard enough, he would wake up from this bizarre dream....
"How else could you know that a hellhound ate my only witness and all the negatives!?"
[back at a nearby estate]
Zechs Marquise walked in to Treize's office to find his superior officer and lover scowling in bewilderment at the computer.
"What's wrong?" the pilot asked, moving behind him to rub his shoulders.
"I'm... not sure," muttered Treize.
"Does it have something to do with that email message you're reading?"
Treize cocked his head in that elegant way that Zechs found so sexy and murmured, "Milliard, I think your sister's gone stark raving bonkers."
"What on earth are you talking about?"
"Just take a look." Treize pointed at the computer screen.
Zech's glorious blue eyes slowly went wide as he read the email message (with attachments) that Treize had received from Relena Peacecraft.
[at the safehouse]
By this time, Duo was sitting on the floor holding his aching head in his hands. Heero had managed to detach the persistent Relena and hovered worriedly -- for him, at least -- by his lover's side.
"Why do you keep calling me a demon!?" Duo demanded.
Relena retorted. "What else would you call someone who turns into a black-robed skeleton waving around a glowing green scythe!?"
At this point, a thoroughly bewildered Quatre asked Trowa, "Is she referring to Deathscythe Hell?"
She whirled around and shouted at the Sandrock pilot, "I'm not talking about a Gundam, you half-witted blond twit!"
As Trowa gave her a cold warning look, Wufei muttered, "Talk about the pot calling the kettle black... or blond, so to speak...."
"I'll show you...," Relena muttered as she dug around in her oversized purse. As she fumbled around, her fingers grazed a cold metal object... and it was no mere ladies' pistol. The Auto-Mag was the most powerful weapon she could cram in her bag. It was a tight fit, but that turned out to be somewhat fortunate because it kept the hand grenades from rattling around too much. Relena thought about yanking it out and shooting Maxwell, but two things stopped her. First of all, she had no idea if the pistol would be enough to kill the unholy monster calling itself Duo Maxwell. Second, Heero was standing too close to the demon and in his confused mental state, he might try to protect Duo and end up getting hurt.
So Relena bypassed the gun -- for now -- and yanked out a badly wrinkled photo, which she waved in everyone's faces. Trowa took it and stared at it... then turned it 90 degrees and stared some more. In fact, he eventually ended up rotating the picture a full 360 degrees, viewing it up close, then as far away as his arms could stretch.
Finally Trowa said, "I can't tell. The picture so blurry, I really can't make anything out. Is that supposed to be... an elephant? With that long curving shape being its tusk?"
Quatre took a look and said, "No, I think it's a river and that curve's the glare from the sun."
"NO!!! That's a picture of the demon with his stupid hair braid and scythe!" an outraged Relena shrieked. She glared at Duo who by now was leaning on Heero for support.
She pointed at Duo and shouted, "Ask him! Ask him what he was doing in the city two nights ago!!!"
Duo muttered, "I was hungry so I went out to get something to eat."
Relena sneered. "Oh sure! I just bet he did!"
Trowa and Quatre stopped arguing over the mysterious blurry photo just long enough for Quatre to absently say, "Being hungry is hardly a crime, you know."
She sniffed and said, "Why don't you tell that to the poor prostitute he murdered and then ate!"
Duo fell over onto the floor and muttered, "I give up. I really do."
"Hn," was Heero's only comment.
Wufei grabbed his jacket and said, "I can't take this garbage any more," and stormed out of the safehouse.
Letting Quatre take another long look at the indecipherable
photo, Trowa said, "So what are we going to do with her? We can
hardly let her go running around making wild statements about Duo."
Heero shrugged and said, "We can just shoot her."
Duo abruptly sat up. "Heero! After you've tried so hard to keep her alive!?"
"But that was when she was the one hope for peace in this world. But now she's obviously crazy, she's useless. I don't have any problem with it."
Without consciously picking his destination, Wufei found himself at Treize's country estate. Dodging security with familiar ease, he soon found himself in his lover's suite.
Treize noticed that his beautiful dragon was thoroughly peeved as Wufei flung himself down on the sofa with an exasperated sigh, then glared at Treize and Zechs who were still huddled around the desk.
The two men exchanged significant looks, then headed for the sofa and sat down, Zechs to Wufei's right and Treize to his left.
When they stared at him with rather odd expressions on their faces, Wufei asked both his lovers with a disgusted growl, "What's with the weird looks?"
"My dear Wufei," said Treize. "I just got the strangest message...."
"....from my sister," inserted Zechs with a scowl.
"What's all this wild stuff...," said the nobleman.
"....about 'poor' Heero Yuy...," added Zechs with a sarcastic twitch of an elegant eyebrow.
"....unholy demons with braids...."
"....and Duo Maxwell!?!?" the two men finished in chorus.
Relena was appalled at this evidence of Duo's devilish domination over Heero. Somehow the demon had managed to brainwash her poor deluded love into trying to murder her. Oh, the tragedy of it all....
She smiled grimly. "Killing me won't stop me from revealing your evil secret to the world!"
"Now what kind of shit are you up to!?" Duo muttered in a resigned voice.
With a smug expression on her face, she said, "I've uploaded a file containing the truth about you, you DEMON, complete with photographic evidence, that will be automatically sent in a few hours throughout the entire computer network, both on Earth and in space. No one can stop it. Not even *I* can stop it!"
"You WHAT!?!?" Duo screamed at her, jumping to his feet.
Relena burst into wild, triumphant laughter. "Yes, in a few short hours, everyone is going to know all about you! They're all going to see EVERY single one of these pictures and there's nothing you can do to stop them!"
She snatched out a thick envelope and flung it at Duo's feet. The package burst open, scattering photos all over the floor. He bent down and picked a handful of the pictures up, then froze when he got a good look at them.
"Duo...?" Heero asked quietly, putting his hand on his lover's shoulder.
"You... you're going to send out... THESE pictures.... Are you... absolutely... sure...?" whispered Duo.
"Of course I am! I fed them into the scanner myself!" Relena snapped.
Duo stood there with his head bowed, his long bangs hiding his eyes and his shoulders shaking. Then without warning, he whirled to face her.
"BAKA!!!!!!" he screamed at her. Everyone in the room, including Heero and Trowa, jumped at the sheer rage in his voice. He thrust the pictures he had been holding into Heero's hands.
Trowa and Quatre ran over to take a look and ended up gaping at the thoroughly explicit photos of Duo and Heero making hot, steamy, passionate love.
The Heavyarms pilot bent down and picked up the rest of the pictures. Sifting through them, he said with a faint air of surprise, "I didn't think it was possible to get into that sort of position, Heero."
Stunned, Quatre muttered, "Wow, Duo... and I thought TROWA was flexible...."
It was unclear what infuriated Heero the worst -- the fact that his privacy had been so thoroughly violated or the fact that someone managed to sneak up close enough to take those pictures without him noticing. Whatever the reason, Heero saw red, skipped his usual 'Omae o korosu' threat, and grabbed for his gun with every intention of emptying the entire magazine into Relena.
Surprisingly, it was Duo who stopped the enraged Gundam Wing pilot. Grabbing his lover's arm, Duo yelled, "We don't have time for that! Heero, we've got to figure out a way to keep that message and those pictures from being sent to god knows how many places!!!!"
[at Treize's estate]
"Ohhh....," mumbled the traumatized Chinese pilot.
Wufei was lying on the sofa, clutching a bloody handkerchief to his nose, as his head rested in Zechs' lap. The OZ ace scowled at Treize who sat at the other end of the sofa, occasionally rubbing poor Wufei's toes as he leafed through the pictures that had accompanied Relena's email message and which he had just printed out. It had been those same photos of Heero and Duo that had given Wufei a spectacular nosebleed.
"I can't believe he's still THAT shy after sleeping with both of us!" Zechs muttered, hoping that he won't have to explain getting bloodstains on his pristine white pants.
Treize absently said, "Why do you think he ends up blindfolded most of the time or why I always keep the room so dark? Do you have any idea how many sets of sheets he's managed to ruin? Although in this day and age, you'd think they'd come up with an effective way to get bloodstains out of silk... hmmmm...." The nobleman held up one particular picture and showed it to Zechs. "What do you think about this?"
As Zechs took a closer look at the photo, his blue eyes slowly went wide and an expression of disbelief appeared on his face. He give Treize a wary look.
"You... you don't mean... you're not suggesting that *I*...."
The enthusiastic nod and the mischievous smile on his superior officer's face confirmed Zechs' worst fears. The OZ pilot jumped to his feet. Unfortunately, he had totally forgotten Wufei's presence in his lap and ended up dumping his other lover onto the cold marble floor.
"Ow!!!" howled Wufei as he landed with a thud.
"Are you CRAZY, Treize!?"
"Why not?" The OZ general gave his
platinum-haired lover a benign smile.
"Because if I tried something like that, I'd end up in traction for DAYS! If you haven't noticed, that damned Gundam pilot is over a foot shorter than I am!"
Treize raised an elegant eyebrow. "Oh, so now you're admitting that there's something that Heero Yuy can do that you can't?"
Zechs turned away, his back rigid with offended pride, and snarled, "I didn't say that."
The OZ general smugly inspected his fingernails. "That's what it sounded like...."
Zechs whirled around. "Anything he can do, I can do and better!"
"And if I say that I don't believe you?" cooed Treize tauntingly.
The wolfish OZ pilot stalked forward. "Then I guess I'll just have to PROVE it to you."
"Zechs, don't do anything stupid!" warned Wufei who was still lying on the floor. "Haven't you figured it out by now? That Heero's just not human!" The Chinese pilot grabbed at Zechs' legs in an effort to keep him from moving. "Damn it! I don't want to see you get hurt attempting something so reckless!"
Zechs gave the young Gundam pilot a stern stare. "Wufei, you of all people should understand that my pride and honor are now at stake!"
"Oh hell, if you put it THAT way...," muttered Wufei morosely. He released his grip on Zechs and slouched against the sofa.
Treize purred, "Are you sure you don't want to join us, little dragon?"
"Uh-uh. No way. Despite what you think, I've still got SOME sense of self-preservation! Besides, I've got a bad feeling that you're going to need someone to call the medical staff before you're through," growled an irate Wufei.
He was eventually right.
[at the Gundam pilots' safehouse]
Relena frowned in annoyance and bewilderment. "What are you babbling about now, you monster?" she snarled at Duo. "And keep your slimy paws off of him!"
Heero, who had no apparent objections to Duo's hands, gave her a searing look.
Trowa silently handed over several of the pictures to Relena. She stared at them for a long moment, then finally muttered, "Oh my... it's the wrong set." Her face set in a regally restrained expression of distaste, she handed the photos back to Trowa.
"The... wrong... set...," growled Heero, nearly shaking in rage.
Hearing the fury in his lover's voice, Duo took the precaution of wrapping his arms firmly around Heero's waist.
"Heero! The computer file! We've got to stop it from getting sent out!" the Deathscythe pilot frantically reminded his companion. "Can you imagine what will happen if Doctor J or those other freaks get a hold of those pictures!?"
The Wing pilot's face suddenly turned as green as
his tanktop as Duo's words sank in.
As Quatre scurried off to the bathroom and faint retching noises could be heard, Trowa frowned and said in a mildly shocked voice, "Really, Duo, was THAT comment actually necessary?"
Duo blurted, "Sorry about that, guys, but we've got to remember what's really important! It's not like I don't want to pound her into the ground, but we've got to worry about that computer file first!" He gave Relena a harassed glance and said, "How the hell are you going to distribute that stupid file?"
She gave him her most queenly stare and sneered, "As if I'm going to tell you?"
Duo yelled back, "C'mon! Don't you get it, you nit-wit!? If those pictures get out, do you have ANY idea how humiliating it's going to be for Heero!?" A sly gleam entered his violet eyes. "You wouldn't want to do that, would you? Embarrass the man you love, eh?"
Relena flushed a deep red. "Oh no... I didn't think about that." It finally occurred to her just how unhappy Heero would be to find XXX-rated pictures of himself splashed across every computer in the known universe.
Duo softly muttered, "I didn't think so...."
"Of course... I can't let that happen."
His face set in hard lines, Heero growled, "What sort of program are you using to distribute the file?"
"I... well, let's see if I can remember... I used a search... what were the terms?" She smiled. "I remember searching for terms like 'self-replicating', 'auto-send', that sort of thing. I ended up finding a program called 'Amelia'."
Heero closed his eyes and rubbed at his forehead.
"What's wrong?" asked Duo, worried at the uncharacteristic show of emotion on his lover's face.
"She picked a damn computer virus. The Amelia virus is the modern version of a very old email virus called Melissa. Basically, once it hits a computer, it automatically sends out copies of a specified file to every single email address contained in that computer."
Duo's amethyst eyes grew wide. "You... you don't mean to tell me that the entire friggin' network is about to get mail-bombed by Relena's damn file and OUR pictures!?!?" he squawked in disbelief.
Heero muttered, "Not only that. If it isn't stopped quickly enough, it's very possible that the Amelia virus could permanently crash the network just from the sheer overload of messages."
"Oh dear...." murmured Relena.
"Great, now we have to also worry about the end of civilization as well!" yelled Duo.
Quatre, still looking a bit pale, walked into the room and said, "But can you stop it, Heero?"
The Wing pilot nodded grimly. "I think so, if I catch it before it gets released into the network. If it gets out, we might as well forget it. Our best chance is at the computer where she put the file together." He shook off Duo's grasp and stalked toward Relena.
"And you're going to take me there."
"Of course! But on one condition...."
"You're NOT in any position to make conditions!" Heero spat out.
She gave him a faintly injured look. "I know that's not really YOU talking." Relena scowled at Duo, who rolled his eyes in exasperation.
"What are you raving about now?" demanded Heero, growing more irritated by the second.
"No, wait! I'll be happy to show you where I was working... but only if you come alone."
"Now hold it a damn minute!" objected Duo.
"I insist! Only Heero comes with me!" she said, stamping her foot.
Relena smiled to herself. The other set of pictures -- the ones proving that Duo Maxwell was a murderous demonic fiend -- were in her office. Once she got Heero alone and away from Duo's immediate influence, she could hopefully convince him of the truth about Maxwell. And if THAT didn't work... well, she had that contingency covered, too.
It was obvious to all the Gundam pilots that Relena was up to something crooked, but Heero merely snapped, "Fine. Let's go." He dumped the photos into Duo's hands -- all except one, which he surreptitiously stuffed into some mysterious place in his shorts -- then grabbed Relena's arm and dragged her out of the house. A few seconds later, they heard an engine rev and tires squealing as a car roared away.
As soon as they were gone, Duo threw the pictures of him and Heero on the table and headed for the back door.
"Duo? You're following them?" Quatre asked.
"Of course I am! Do you think I'm leaving Heero alone with HER!? I'm sure Heero's expecting me to follow. Besides, I wouldn't put anything past her at this point. She could bloody well have some crazy scheme to kidnap him, for all I know!"
Before he rushed out the door, Duo suddenly turned around. There was a dangerous glitter in Duo's violet eyes as he growled ominously, "I am Shinigami and Heero Yuy's MINE!"
After the braided pilot's departure, Trowa and Quatre exchanged long looks. Finally, the Sandrock pilot spoke.
"You know... he sounded awfully serious...."
"Trowa, are you pondering what I'm pondering?"
"I think so, Quatre," the Heavyarms pilot responded, thinking of the potentially explosive combination of an infuriated Heero, a blindly obsessed Relena, and a dangerously possessive Duo.
Without another word, the two of them ran out of the safehouse after their fellow pilots.
[on the road to Relena's office]
As he drove down the road at a high rate of speed, Heero was grateful that Relena had the apparent wisdom to keep her mouth shut, but as soon as the thought crossed his mind, she ruined everything by saying, "Heero?"
He growled irately at her, simmering in barely controlled fury.
She edged closer to him and said, "Heero?"
He hoped that she wouldn't start screeching any louder. If she did, he was going to punch her out cold and that would cause complications later on....
She coughed awkwardly. "I didn't mean to make such a mess of things. Really I didn't. The last thing I wanted to do is to hurt you in any way, but I simply HAD to show you that you were only being used... no, that you were being hideously ABUSED by Maxwell."
He flicked an icy glare in her direction.
"I know that long ago... when you were a child, you were... normal. Happy... carefree.... And then, something terrible happened to make you this way. And... and I think it's absolutely horrible how that monster took advantage of your vulnerability and pain!"
Heero's eyes widened as his anger transformed into incredulity and disbelief. Unfortunately, like so many times before, Relena completely misinterpreted his expression.
She clutched at his arm and said in an earnest voice, "Yes, don't be surprised that I know the truth! There's no need to pretend any more. And nothing you've been through will make me think less of you, my dear Heero!"
He absently wondered if she had the slightest idea just how pompous and patronizing she sounded.
"You're probably used to this sort of... unhealthy... relationship. I've read that even the most horrible things begin to feel... normal... if they go on long enough. And I'm sure that Maxwell is relying on that fact to keep you under his control!" A unnerving, teary look appeared in her eyes as she hovered even closer.
As he instinctively leaned away from the encroachment on his personal space, she sniffed sadly. "But it doesn't have to continue this way, Heero! The pain... the humiliation... the degradation.... You know, they have doctors and therapists who can help people like you. If you let them, they can... they can FIX you.... They can save you from this... this hellish, abusive relationship that... that vicious creature's sucked you into!"
Heero slammed on the brakes and pulled the car to a screeching stop at the side of the road.
"Don't EVER talk that way about Duo," he snarled.
"Stop trying to deny your feelings, Heero! If you ever want to be free of him...."
With deadly precision, he retorted, "Deny my own feelings? That's the last thing I'm doing. And what if I don't WANT to be free of Duo?"
"Oh, Heero, why won't you face the truth?" Relena moaned, mournfully shaking her head.
"The truth!?" He glared at her. "You want the TRUTH!? Well, here's the damn truth!"
Heero yanked out the picture he had pocketed earlier and shoved it in Relena's face. Pictures of him and Duo having sex were bad enough, but what really enraged Heero were the other pictures of quieter, more intimate moments... moments when emotions normally hidden could plainly be seen. The particular photo in question was one of Duo as he leaned above Heero with a faint smile, his long chestnut hair cascading loosely over his shoulders. But it was the expression of love in those clear, amethyst eyes as Duo stared down at him that made the photo so important to the Wing pilot.
That look on Duo's face was for him and him alone. He would be DAMNED if he would let a hoard of complete strangers see it... to let them intrude on that exquisitely private moment.
Relena gave the photo a dismissive glance and shook her head sadly. "Oh, my poor Heero...." She could just see the hunger and greed lurking in that monster Duo's eyes. Who knows what evil plans were going through the creature's mind at that moment?
The Wing pilot clutched the steering wheel with a white-knuckled grip and slowly banged his head against it. Now he knew how Duo had been feeling earlier. Relena was obviously in her own delusional world and nothing he could say or show her would make her believe otherwise. Duo made him feel human... alive... and it frustrated him to no end to have Relena accuse Duo -- the one truly GOOD thing in his life -- of maliciously abusing him.
He damn well knew she was wrong. After all, he had first-hand experience with the real thing.
Heero hissed angrily and restarted the car. He wasn't going to think about Relena's garbage any more. He was going to retrieve the damn file, then drop her into the deepest hole he could find and BURY her.
[at Treize's estate]
"I warned you, didn't I?" said a distinctly intoxicated Wufei with a smug little smirk.
"Shut up and just help me get my leg untangled!" Treize growled breathlessly.
A distinctly evil expression crossed the Chinese pilot's face as he stared down at the helpless OZ general.
"No... wait... what are you...? You wouldn't....
Oh hell, you would! Wufei, stop that! Not the feathers!!!"
babbled a suddenly nervous Treize.
"Oh yes, the feathers," Wufei said inexorably, cracking his knuckles in anticipation. "That would only be... justice," he said with a slightly drunken giggle.
Zechs was in no position to really say anything, but he shot a 'now-you've-done-it' glare at Treize. The dirty look was soon followed by a pained yelp as his superior officer started to squirm frantically.
[at Relena's office, located on one of the buildings on Treize's
Relena Peacecraft's secretary was cleaning up her employer's office when room suddenly went dim, as if someone had simultaneously closed the curtains and turned off the lights. She froze as something sharp pricked the back of her neck and a soft husky male voice asked, "Did Relena receive a bunch of photos recently?"
"Y-Yes. From two different people. It was two days ago. She was frightfully upset...," she murmured nervously.
"I see. So there really are two sets of pictures floating around. So where are they now?"
"She took one set with her."
"And where's the other set?" the male voice asked cheerfully.
Terribly conscious of the sharp object brushing her neck, she told him.
"Thanks for the info. Just one last thing."
"Did you take a look at that second set of pictures?"
She shivered. When she didn't answer, the sharpness pressed against her throat and she felt something warm trickle down her neck.
"Yes... I... I did."
"And what was on them?"
She told him that, too.
The sharp object abruptly left her neck. The secretary whirled around to see a short, slim figure standing a few feet away, its black clothes blending into the general dimness of the office. She was startled to realize that her attacker was just a teenage boy. But there was something strangely familiar about him....
He chuckled ruefully and shook his head.
"Oh dear. Now I'm going to have to kill you."
The boy's long chestnut bangs had obscured much of his face, but when he carelessly tossed back his waist-length braid and lifted his head, the secretary was horrified to see two luminous violet eyes staring at her. No whites or pupils... just those softly glowing amethyst orbs that seem to suck her down into their endless depths. Totally entranced, she never noticed when the glowing green scythe flared into existence and decapitated her with a single stroke.
< It would be nearly a month later before a startled maintenance man (who had trying to track down the odd smell everyone was complaining about) accidentally discovered the dismembered body of a female hidden in Relena's office. But as for just how it ended up crammed twenty-five feet up the chimney, no one could come up with a plausible suggestion. >
[15 minutes later, Relena's office]
Heero stalked into Relena's darkened office and froze as she fiddled with the broken light switch. He thought he could detect the familiar metallic scent of blood, but a careful look around the room showed nothing unusual.
"Where did she go?" Relena muttered in frustration. She had been relying on having her secretary around to help make the necessary arrangements, but the foolish woman was nowhere to be found.
The Wing pilot shook his head sharply as Relena walked over to her desk. At first, she seemed confident -- almost smug -- but as he watched, she became increasing frantic as she searched the desk for something.
"Oh no... oh no... it's not here! Where can it possibly be? It has to be here!" she wailed.
"Relena...," he growled ominously.
"They're gone! All the pictures of Maxwell are gone!"
Heero stalked over to her. "Are you still going on about that?"
"But I'm telling you they were here! The other set of pictures and the videotape of the monster!"
He grabbed her arm and snapped, "Where's the computer?"
"The computer where you put the file together," he said flatly, giving her a hard shake. "I'm in no mood for games!"
She mutely pointed to the work station off to the side of her desk.
After he got the necessary passwords out of her, he sat down at the computer and started to work.
Relena was in a near state of panic at the moment. The pictures were gone. Her only evidence against Duo Maxwell had vanished. But how? They had left the monster far behind at the house, so who could have taken the pictures?
She gazed at Heero's back as she continued to rummage around her desk in the faint hope that her secretary had simply put them in a drawer. But she was coming to realize that even if she could find the pictures, they would be useless. That demon Maxwell simply had too powerful a grip on poor Heero's mind. The monster had even managed to convince Heero that Duo was actually in love with him, when it was blatantly clear to her that Heero was just a convenient plaything and maybe even a potential meal.
Her face set with grim determination, she opened one last drawer and pulled out the specially prepared pistol. She had hoped that it wouldn't come down to this, but with the missing pictures and her inability to break through Maxwell's web of lies, she had no choice. Relena took deliberate aim at Heero's back and pulled the trigger.
Heero caught a glimpse of her movement reflected off the computer screen a fraction of a second before she fired. Sheer surprise held him frozen for a vital split second and a sharp pain hit him in the left shoulder.
He jumped to his feet and spun around. Grabbing at his shoulder, his fingers encounter a tranquilizer dart.
In the face of his accusing stare, Relena dropped the air pistol and whispered tearfully, "I'm sorry, Heero. I really am. I didn't want to do it, but it's the only way to save you from Maxwell. I know you probably hate me at the moment, but when you're cured and that monster's dead, you'll understand and forgive me, I'm sure."
Heero's brain skipped to the most important thing. "What do you mean 'when that monster's dead'?" he shouted furiously. The Wing pilot pounced on her and pinned her against the desk. "What the hell have you done to Duo!?"
She gasped out, "I... I sent a message to Treize Khushrenada... warning him all about Maxwell. He's probably sending OZ forces to destroy the creature even as we speak...."
"You...." Heero found it impossible to finish his sentence as a tremendous wave of numbness and dizziness sent him staggering.
As he started to sag to the ground, she grabbed him and held him close. "Don't fight it, Heero. You'll only make it worse."
"Let... go... of... me...," he gritted out, but Relena was too busy chattering about psychologists and therapy sessions and wedding plans to pay attention.
When Heero finally went limp, Relena managed to heave him over onto her desk. Panting with the exertion, she stared down at his gorgeous, still face. Impulsively, she bent down and gave the unconscious Heero her most passionate kiss just as Duo burst through the door to her office.
"You bitch! What the hell did you do to him!?" the braided pilot shouted furiously at her.
When Trowa and Quatre finally arrived at Relena's office, they found a most interesting scene. Relena was lying on the floor, bound hand and foot, and gagged with a big wad of pantyhose. She didn't pay any attention to the two newcomers. Instead, she continued to futilely thrash around, uttering very muffled screams of rage as she glared at the two boys on top of her desk.
Quatre and Trowa both blinked as they observed Duo who appeared to be in the middle of a protracted, saliva-swapping kiss with a rather passive Heero.
Finally, Trowa said in a detached voice, "Duo, don't you think that this really isn't the time for that? You're supposed to be trying to retrieve that computer file."
Duo pulled his lips free from Heero's and gasped, "Don't you think I know THAT!? But Relena somehow knocked him out cold with some blasted drug dart and now he's not breathing!" He bent down over Heero to blow some more air into his lover's lungs.
"WHAT!" blurted Quatre as he ran over to the desk. Checking Heero's pulse, he found it appallingly sluggish.
Between breaths, Duo managed to say, "Find out what that bitch used... and call Sally Po and see if she knows an antidote for it!" He watched Heero tensely. Duo had been successful in getting Heero to start breathing several times already, but he couldn't *keep* the Wing pilot breathing.
Trowa yanked the wad of pantyhose out of Relena's mouth, listened briefly to her rambling discourse that consisted of abject apologies to Heero and screams for Duo to stop molesting the Wing pilot. Soon realizing that Relena wasn't going to say anything immediately useful, Trowa laconically stuffed the pantyhose back into her mouth and picked up the phone. Fortunately, the doctor was available.
"Sally, we have a problem."
"What's wrong, Trowa?" she said over the phone.
"Heero's been injected with a drug and now he's not breathing... correction, his breathing keeps stopping."
"Do you know what drug he was given?"
Trowa carefully read off the drug name and dosage off the dart's label.
There was a long silence, then Sally said, "Would you mind telling me how Heero got hit with a tranquilizer for animals? And it's no wonder he's having problems breathing! That dosage could take down a herd of full grown horses!"
Duo scowled furiously at Relena. "Shit! Just what were you thinking, you idiot!?"
Quatre thoughtfully ungagged Relena who sputtered, "It wasn't MY fault! I asked a doctor who forwarded me to a colleague of his! I can't help it if the fool gave me the wrong drug! Besides, what difference could it make? If it's harmless for animals, surely it should be fine for people, as well!"
Trowa sighed quietly and muttered, "Someone should tell her about phencyclidine."
"What the hell did you exactly tell the doctor that you needed the drug for?" Duo asked sarcastically. "I bet you didn't tell him that you were planning to kidnap someone!"
Relena turned beet red and mumbled something.
Quatre, who was the only person in the room in a position to hear what she was saying, suddenly exclaimed, "You said you were going to do WHAT with a STALLION!?"
Over the phone, Sally said, "Listen. I know of something that will partially counteract the drug. You should be able to find it in any infirmary. Give me a call once you have it. By then, I should have figured out the appropriate dosage."
After Sally read off the name of the antidote, Trowa hung up and turned to Duo. "I'll take care of it and be back shortly."
As they waited for Trowa's return, Quatre stood up and said, "I'll take a quick look around and make sure...." His words were abruptly cut short as Relena managed to hook her feet around his ankle and trip him, sending him sprawling on his face.
As he gingerly picked himself off the floor, he blurted, "Miss Relena! Why on earth did you do THAT for?" Quatre then looked appalled as she burst into tears.
"Please don't leave me and Heero alone with HIM!" she sobbed.
"With HIM!" With her bound feet, Relena pointed at Duo, who was staring at her with a decidedly nasty gleam in his violet eyes. "God knows what that monster will do!"
Quatre gave her a dubious look. "Miss Relena, are you STILL going on with those crazy accusations about Duo?"
"I'm not crazy! I'm telling you he's an evil monster and now he's going to kill me because I know too much!"
"Be afraid. Be VERY afraid," Duo said with a menacing snigger, even as he kept a careful eye on Heero's erratic breathing.
"Duo!" exclaimed Quatre in a scolding voice. "You're only making her more frightened by teasing her like that!"
"Damn right I am!" the Deathscythe pilot said without a shred of remorse. "The bitch could have killed Heero with her stupidity and I'm going to see that she bloody well pays!"
"See! See what I mean!" shrieked the now terrified Relena. She could clearly see the malevolent gleam in Maxwell's hideous purple eyes.
"Gee, Relena, what do we happen to have in here?" Duo muttered as he peered inside the oversized purse she had left beside the desk. "My my my. A serious handgun -- it's even loaded! -- and a few hand grenades? Just the thing your normal, everyday total pacifist carts around in her bag, I'm sure."
"Keep your filthy paws off my things!" she shouted.
Duo glared dangerously at her. "Oh? Do you consider Heero to be one of your THINGS?" He lifted the pistol and took careful aim at Relena.
"That isn't funny, Duo!" the Arab pilot exclaimed.
"Who said I was joking?" the American said with the same maniacal grin he wore when he was slicing enemy Mobile Suits to shreds. But to Quatre's relief, he put the gun away and settled down beside the still unconscious Heero with the all the grace and lethal beauty of a black panther.
Quatre sighed and sat down on the floor beside the still hysterical Relena. He hoped that Trowa would come back soon.
Within a half hour, Trowa returned with the antidote to the tranquilizer. After a quick consultation with Sally Po, they administered the drug and waited for it to take effect. With Relena bouncing between wild threats and terrified entreaties, Trowa and Quatre finally dragged her out into the waiting room to keep her away from the thoroughly aggravated Duo. As they dumped her on a chair, the phone rang.
"Trowa, I'm so sorry. I was in such a rush I forgot to tell you something important about the tranquilizer and its counteragent."
"What is it?"
"There are certain side-effects."
"What sort of side-effects?" Trowa asked, a faint frown of concern on his face.
"Uncontrolled euphoria, a loss of normal inhibitions, and a dramatically increased libido."
Quatre muttered, "Oh no...." He ran over to Relena's office and peered inside.
"What's up?" Duo asked the blond pilot with a curious look.
"Sally Po just told us that the drugs in Heero's system are likely to cause certain side-effects."
The American stiffened, "Like what!?"
"She said there's going to be euphoria...."
Suddenly, Heero curled up and uttered a distinct giggle.
"....and.... and a loss of...," the Sandrock pilot stammered, eyeing the softly giggling Wing pilot uncertainly.
A pair of arms suddenly wrapped themselves tightly around a startled Duo and pulled him back against a warm, firm body.
"Heero!" yelped the braided pilot, a relieved smile on his face.
"I'm SO glad you're safe...," Heero purred, nuzzling at Duo's neck and face like a playful kitten.
"....inhibitions...," continued the Arab pilot in a slightly strangled voice.
"....and I'm going to fuck you stupid!" the wildly grinning Heero growled roughly in the braided pilot's ear, his hands already slithering under Duo's shirt.
"....and a dramatically increased libido!" a wide-eyed Quatre finished with a squeak.
"I don't need a goddamn play-by-play commentary!" snarled Heero. With his usual excellent coordination, he was busily occupied unzipping Duo's pants with one hand while using the other hand to hurl a paperweight with deadly accuracy in the direction of the doorway.
Quatre ducked the chunk of outrageously expensive glass that would have split his head wide open and yelled, "Duo!?"
"I'm fine... close the damn door before he....mmmppph!" shouted Duo, but his words were abruptly cut by Heero's devouring mouth.
"Mine...." growled the Wing Pilot, shifting his attentions lower down Duo's body.
"Are you sure...?" repeated the anxious Sandrock pilot.
"YES, just do it! Heero, give me that gun! You can't shoot Quatre!"
"I fucking will if he doesn't get the hell out
of here...." the
Japanese pilot said with an unhealthy degree of enthusiasm. "In fact,
I might go ahead and shoot him anyway...!"
Quatre slammed the office door shut, leaving himself alone with Trowa and Relena in the waiting area.
The Heavyarms pilot blinked, then said into the phone, "Sally, just how long are this side-effects supposed to last? I see. Thank you."
"Well?" Quatre asked impatiently as Trowa hung up.
"She said that the side-effects should wear off fairly soon... no more than a half hour or so."
Quatre looked at the closed door and muttered, "Poor Duo."
Relena, who missed most of the conversation involving Heero and Duo, angrily shrieked, "What's going on!? How could you desert poor Heero like that!? Who knows what that perverted beast will do to him!?"
Quatre lost his temper and said snappishly, "I'm not worried about Heero! I'm more worried about he's doing to Duo!"
Through the door, everyone heard a loud thump and some scuffling noises, followed by the sound of ripping fabric.
"You're WHAT!? You're worried about that monster!? I can't believe it! Are you hopelessly stupid!? Don't you realize.... gumph...!"
With a slight frown of irritation, Trowa stuffed the wad of pantyhose back into the raving Relena's mouth, then pulled Quatre next to him and patiently settled down to wait.
"I hope Duo knows what he's doing," Quatre said with a fretful look.
"His instincts with regard to Heero are usually excellent. And it's rather unwise to get in Heero's way when he really wants something," was Trowa's placid reply as he discretely cuddled the blond pilot and ignored Relena's muffled rants.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: phencyclidine is the generic name for PCP (otherwise known as angeldust). ^_^
[in Treize's suite]
"Uh... harder! Do it harder, Treize!"
"I'm <pant> trying! Just let me <gasp> catch my <wheeze> breath...."
"Treizzzzzeee!!! You can't just LEAVE me like this!" howled Zechs in acute frustration. "I'm going to DIE if you don't...!"
"Will you... shut up! I'm trying to... concentrate here!" Treize muttered after spitting out a mouthful of platinum blond hair flung into his face by Zechs' thrashing movements.
"It's all your fault! You got me into this mess! Now you fucking well better fix it or ELSE!!!" ranted Zechs, who was by now clawing frenziedly at the bedsheets. "Put your back into it, man! I know you're stronger than that! Use your hips!"
""I swear, you can be such a baby if you don't get your way.... I'm not in exactly the best of shape here either, you know!"
Finally, gathering the last bits of his strength, Treize reared up, then shoved decisively downward using the entire weight of his body.
The OZ ace let loose a rapturous "AHHH!!!!!" then went limp in sheer relief as something went <pop> and slid into place.
"There... are you satisfied NOW?" growled Treize as he wearily collapsed onto the bed, his bare, sweat-sheened chest heaving.
"Mmmmm...." Zechs stretched languorously before rolling over onto his back. "Ohhhhhh yesssss... that's MUCH better." He glanced over at Treize. "For a few moments there, I was afraid that you were going to have to call the medical staff to help you get my spine back into working order."
"Don't be so damn smug! Have you SEEN how big some of those hulking orderlies in the medical department are?"
"Male or female?"
"Either! Both! God, sometimes I can't even tell WHAT they are.... I swear some of those orderlies look like they can take on a LEO barehanded and win! Believe me, you wouldn't be laughing once they've gotten their hands on you!"
"How on earth do you know all this?"
"Poor Une. Slipped in her bathtub and managed to dislocate her shoulder a few days ago."
With a decided smirk on his face, Zechs said, "And how did THAT happen? The woman practices gymnastics for exercise, for god's sake. I've seen her do back-flips on a balance beam without using her hands. And you're trying to tell me she just FELL in her bathtub!?"
A wonderfully innocent expression appeared on Treize's face. "I haven't got a clue."
Zechs rolled over and pinned Treize to the bed. In a low growl, he said, "You didn't happen to be WITH her when this occurred, did you?"
"Absolutely not! I found out only after the fact."
With a hurt expression on his face, Treize muttered, "What do you take me for?"
The OZ ace had the grace to look a bit guilty. "It's just that... oh, never mind. You were saying about the orderlies?" he murmured as he nuzzled Treize consolingly.
With a sigh, Treize murmured, "I just stopped in at the infirmary to check on her condition. It wasn't pretty. She was lying on a gurney with one huge orderly sitting on top of her while an even bigger one was yanking on her arm. It took about fifteen minutes to get her shoulder back into place."
Zechs blinked, then winced. "Ouch...." After a moment, he said, "You know, I never realized that you were so ticklish."
Treize grunted wearily. "Damn that drunken little devil! That bit with the feathers was positively inhuman! I think I might have sprained half my muscles!"
"What do you expect? He was trained as a terrorist. He saw a weakness and exploited it ruthlessly," Zechs retorted with a pained grimace.
"Hmmmm...." Treize glanced at the closed bathroom door. All that alcohol had finally caught up to his little dragon, who was now puking his guts out... hopefully into the toilet.
"Milliard, make a note. Wufei mildly intoxicated is amusing. Moderately intoxicated, uninhibited. Heavily intoxicated, a sadistic little monster."
"Duly noted, sir," drawled Zechs.
In a lazy voice, the OZ general murmured, "So... what do we do for revenge against our wicked little dragon?"
Zechs gave his lover a vicious, wolfish grin that exposed lots of gleaming white teeth, then rolled back over onto his stomach.
"Oh, I'm sure we can think of... SOMEthing...."
[in the waiting room of Relena's office]
"It's too quiet," Quatre muttered unhappily.
During their first twenty minutes of waiting, Quatre, Trowa, and Relena could all hear muffled thumps and the shuffle of movement -- occasionally mixed with incoherent cries and exclamations -- through the closed door to Relena's office. But the sounds had abruptly ceased. After two minutes of silence, Quatre started to fidget restlessly. After five minutes of no sounds, not even Trowa's soothing pats could keep the smaller boy still.
"It's too quiet," the blond pilot repeated. He glanced up at Trowa. "I mean, we never hear Heero, but you KNOW how noisy Duo gets!"
"That's true," Trowa said thoughtfully.
Quatre was starting to have visions of poor Duo's strangled corpse sprawled atop Relena's desk. He had no doubt that Heero really loved Duo, but Quatre couldn't deny the fact that Duo occasionally had a way of teasing people until they wanted to throttle the braided pilot, just to shut him up. And if Heero was suffering from a loss of all his normal inhibitions, would he be able to resist the urge to strangle Duo if the other boy accidentally provoked him?
For the last thirty minutes, the gagged and bound Relena had nearly been beside herself with rage. At first she hadn't understood what was going on, but after a few minutes of listening to the thumps, thuds, and muffled moans coming through the door, she realized just what sort of activity was going on... and in *her* office, no less!
Even more shocking was the fact that the other two Gundam pilots -- the one with the ludicrous hair bangs and the air-headed blond -- knew *exactly* what was happening to poor Heero, but were perfectly happy to sit back and do absolutely nothing about it.
Perverts! All of them! That, or the monster calling itself Duo Maxwell had taken control of their minds as well. Yes, that was probably it. He had corrupted them all.
Her eyes started to water as she tried to think of the sort of horrors her poor Heero must be suffering at that very moment, but her imagination failed her. Just the thought of Maxwell and his foul minions pawing Heero with their slimy hands....
And all she could do was sit helplessly on her waiting room sofa and hope that Heero would survive the terrible ordeal he was undoubtedly undergoing.
A few more tense minutes of silence passed. Finally, unable to stand the suspense, Quatre stealthily crossed the room and put his ear to the door. He heard nothing. Quatre hastily waved Trowa over. The brown-haired pilot carefully brushed his hair bang to one side and put his own ear to the door. After listening carefully, he gave a small shake of his head. He too was starting to look a trifle concerned.
The two of them were leaning even harder against the door, trying to catch the faintest sign of activity on the other side, when, without warning, the door suddenly flew open.
The abrupt loss of support only caused Trowa to wobble just a bit before he regained his balance. However, for the second time that afternoon, Quatre ended up face down on the carpet -- this time at Heero's feet.
The blond-haired boy stared up at the Wing pilot nervously. After all, less than half an hour ago, Heero had been positively eager to shoot him full of holes. A chill rippled down Quatre's spine when he saw the expression on Heero's face.
He was smiling... no, he was *grinning*.
"Uhh... I can explain... I didn't mean to...." Quatre babbled nervously.
In a frighteningly cheerful voice, Heero asked, "Quatre, what on earth are you doing sprawled out on the floor?" He reached down and hauled the smaller boy to his feet with no effort at all.
Quatre smiled nervously and hastily backed up until he felt the comforting presence of Trowa behind him. A quick peek at the Heavyarms pilot's face -- the slightly widened green eye and raised eyebrow -- told him that Trowa found the Wing pilot's behavior more than a little unnerving as well.
They were both used to seeing a brooding, hyper-intense, occasionally suicidal Heero, but this strange psychotically cheerful Heero was making Quatre's skin crawl.
And where was Duo?
Momentarily disregarding Heero's blatantly amused expression, Quatre frantically scanned the room looking for any sign of the Deathscythe pilot. He froze when he saw what appeared to be a limp body lying on top of Relena's desk, covered with the Peacecraft's hugely expensive cashmere coat. Two bare legs, exposed to the knees, were visible at one end while several long strands of chestnut brown hair and a still, unmoving hand trailed out from underneath the coat and hung over the opposite edge of the desk.
"Duo!" Quatre blurted anxiously.
"Shhhhhh!" Heero then leaned closer to Quatre and whispered, "He's sleeping."
The figure stirred slightly and a low, husky voice exhaustedly muttered, "No, he's not...."
Duo poked his head out from under the coat, brushed his unbraided hair out of his face, and gave all of them a bleary-eyed glare.
A relieved, if somewhat dazed Quatre noted that it seemed that Heero had been as good as his word. Duo looked like he had had *quite* a workout....
"Uh... are you okay, Duo?" Quatre asked.
"I feel... like a quarter mile... of heavily traveled road... but otherwise, yeah.... And tell Sally... 'a dramatically increased libido', my ASS!"
Heero calmly strolled over to the desk and patted Duo's rear end, still modestly covered by Relena's coat, with a proprietary air.
"But it's such a pretty ass," the Wing pilot in a voice of smug satisfaction. He looked rather like a cat who had not only swallowed the bird, but also polished off several dishes of cream.
Duo glared at his lover -- who was now playfully running his fingers through Duo's long brown hair -- and acidly retorted, "Well, if you don't hurry and do something about Relena's friggin' computer file, EVERYONE in the damn world is going see just how pretty it is!"
Heero chuckled easily and said, "Relax. I'll take care of it. Now why don't you just lie down and get some rest?" He leaned over and gave Duo a casual kiss on his cheek, then sauntered over to the workstation and started typing.
For a nervous moment, Quatre was afraid that Heero was going to begin singing, but the Wing pilot merely started to hum an old romantic tune... and did so surprisingly well.
"Relax, he says...," Duo said with a snort, before pulling the coat back over his head. After a minute or so, there was a soft snore.
Trowa coughed discretely, then said, "It seems
that the side effects haven't quite worn off."
From her position on the sofa, Relena couldn't get a good look into her office or at Heero's face. However, she could see Trowa's and Quatre's expressions... and they looked positively stunned and stupefied.
It was worse than she feared, by god, if even Maxwell's pet thugs were upset. She felt the tears welling up in her eyes as she wondered just what had happened to her beloved Heero....
As Trowa casually kept an eye on the cheerfully humming Heero, Quatre returned to the waiting room and was appalled to see the tears cascading down Relena's face.
As he blotted up the tears, he murmured sadly, "Oh dear. Miss Relena... I suppose finding out about Heero and Duo must have been a terrible shock to you, but I suppose it's really for the best. Surely, you can see now that all your interference isn't going to change anything. You're only making things harder on Heero if you continue to make these sorts of accusations about Duo. Why don't you just give in and accept what's going on?"
When he saw the furious, defiant glare that Relena gave him, Quatre sighed and shook his head.
Whatever effect the drugs might have had on Heero's emotional state, they didn't seem to affect his mental abilities. After about ten minutes of rapid typing, he pulled a disk from the computer and shut down the system.
Trowa murmured, "Got it?"
With a faint smirk, Heero said, "Yes. Relena's no expert. I found it within the first three minutes. I spent most of the time trying to determine whether this file had been automatically archived or backed up somewhere else in the system."
"Are we ready to leave?"
Heero shook his head. "Not quite yet. This 'Amelia' computer virus is tenacious and sneaky. I need to double-check the mainframe to make sure all traces of the file is gone." He shrugged. "Besides, I need to grab some new clothes for Duo. It shouldn't take me more than 45 minutes."
Trowa glanced at the torn shreds of black clothing strewn all over Relena's office. "I see."
As he watched Heero stroll out into the waiting room, Trowa was relieved to see the unusual cheerfulness slowly disappearing from Heero's demeanor. But traces of it could still be seen in the faint smile of amusement that seemed to hover on the Wing pilot's lips.
Suddenly, the Heavyarms pilot felt a warm hand grab his wrist. He glanced down to see Duo looking up at him, a worried look on his heart-shaped face.
"Trowa... would you mind keeping an eye on him? Make sure he doesn't do anything stupid, huh?"
The brown-haired pilot nodded, then cocked his head slightly. "He's right. You look like you need some rest."
Duo shrugged eloquently. "Well, you know Heero. He said he was going to fuck me stupid."
The corner of Trowa's mouth twitched upward. "Ninmu kanryou?"
"Oh yeah... ninmu kanryou." Duo winked a bright violet eye, then grinned sleepily at the other pilot. "And how...," he added before pulling the coat back over his head.
Relena felt her heart shatter into little pieces as she watched Heero walk out her office, then stop short to stare at her with cold, furious eyes. She could tell that Maxwell had been busy at work. She had no doubts that the diabolical fiend had spent the last half hour doing unspeakable things to Heero's mind, twisting and warping his memories so that everything that she'd done appeared in the worst possible light.
Just as Heero started to reach behind his back, the tall pilot called Trowa quickly walked into the waiting room, deftly took Heero's arm, and firmly escorted him out into the hallway.
Relena couldn't help but notice that Heero continued to stare fixedly at her, even as the hallway door closed. Maybe there was still some hope for the two of them....
Quatre sighed depressedly at being left to babysit Relena again. He felt a guilty sense of relief that she was gagged so he wouldn't have to keep up any sort of conversation with her. He decided to sit down on the waiting room's loveseat and not share the sofa with Relena. Considering the anger in her eyes, he wouldn't put it past her to try kicking him.
After several minutes, he found himself trying to stifle a yawn.
....and that's the last thing Quatre Raberba Winner
Lady Une -- bruised, cranky, and her arm still in a sling -- snapped at one of her subordinates as she eyed the thick banks of dark clouds rolling toward the installation.
"What's going on?"
"I don't know, ma'am. The meteorological report is for sunny skies. There's no reports of any weather fronts in the area!"
"Then how do you explain THAT!" She waved her good arm at the black clouds. Beneath the towering thunderheads, constantly illuminated from within by brilliant flashes of lightning, she could see the smeary film in the air that told her of torrential rains approaching.
Relena stared in mingled confusion and annoyance as the small blond Gundam pilot leaned over and suddenly fell asleep on the loveseat. True, she might not be a trained fighter like Heero, but somehow, the fact that Quatre considered her so weak and harmless that he could fall asleep while guarding her was rather galling to her pride.
As she fumed silently, she once again attempted to free herself from her bonds. However, she was having little success. Maxwell, the cunning devil, apparently did an expert job. No amount of twisting or pulling was getting her anywhere.
Suddenly, she felt someone watching her. Her heart sank as she looked up and realized that she had totally forgotten one *very* important thing -- Duo Maxwell's presence.
And now he stood in the doorway to her office, wearing a sinister grin....
....and absolutely nothing else.
As a stark naked Duo Maxwell stared at a bound and gagged Relena Peacecraft with a positively malevolent grin on his face, she realized that she was -- as one uncouth clod had once bluntly, but accurately stated -- 'hip deep in shit'.
[OZ command center]
Controlled panic was slowly creeping through the duty officers.
"The perimeter sensors are malfunctioning!"
"I'm not getting any readings on radar!"
The lights flickered.
"Primary power grid is down! Backup generators online!"
The lights flickered again.
"I can't contact the eastern guard posts!"
"Backup generators in sectors 1, 6, 10 are down!"
"We've lost contact with Mobile Suit team Fox-Tango-2!"
Lady Une was not a happy woman.
[in Treize's suite]
Wufei staggered out of the bathroom to find Treize leisurely reclining in a comfortable chair while Zechs appear to be dozing on the bed. Although he had gotten rid of a lot of the alcohol he'd so imprudently chugged down, he was still quite drunk -- drunk enough to feel rather reckless and careless.
Treize took a sip of cognac and said casually, "My darling little beastling, you never did explain what was going on with Relena and Duo Maxwell."
Wufei shrugged irritably as he weaved his way across the floor. "I don't know. The crazy female's been chasing Heero all over the place, shamelessly throwing herself at him, and basically making a total fool of herself. But this time, she shows up and starts screaming that Maxwell's some sort of demon. She claims to have had proof and a witness to all this, but then says that some monster dog ATE both of them!"
The Chinese pilot whirled around and scowled belligerently at Zechs. "I hope this sort of madness doesn't run in your family!"
Zechs turned his head, gave Treize a long speaking glance, then said mildly, "But what if she's right?"
"Wha-What!?" sputtered Wufei in inebriated outrage.
In a lazy voice, Trieze murmured, "You know, I've always wondered about Maxwell. There's something positively uncanny about that boy and that damned Gundam of his."
Zechs chimed in with a murmured, "Indeed...."
"After all, he has the eeriest way of popping up out of nowhere."
Wufei uttered a disgusted growl. "That's a perfectly rational explanation. He has excellent electronic countermeasures (ECM) equipment. Any idiot could tell you that!"
Treize slowly swirled the cognac around in his glass. "No, there has to be much more than that. Or if it is simply a matter of ECM, whatever equipment he has is several orders of magnitude better than anything I've ever heard of."
"Maybe he does!" Even though he was thoroughly drunk, Wufei wasn't about to go babbling classified information about his comrades' Gundams. Although, Treize did have a point.... Wufei hastily shook his head and instantly regretted it as the room tilted.
"Electronic jamming is perfectly feasible -- any idiot could manage it -- but that doesn't explain how that Deathscythe Gundam of his can get inside heavily guarded facilities virtually undetected," Treize murmured as he suppressed a sly grin.
As if on cue, Zech lazily murmured, "Almost like a ghost...."
"And that scythe of his... it's just not possible to use thermal blades underwater like he does."
Wufei shouted, "Don't tell me you're actually buying into that crazy female's fantasy!? Will you listen to yourselves? Two grown men suggesting that there's something supernatural about that joker Duo Maxwell AND his Gundam!?"
Zechs blithely ignored the Chinese pilot's outburst. "All our test data shows that it's physically impossible to effectively operate thermal blades underwater. All the energy would go into vaporizing the water. There certainly wouldn't be enough power left over to slice a Mobile Suit in half."
"I don't believe this!" Wufei shouted, a muscle twitching in his cheek. "There are no such things as ghosts, demons, or monsters!"
Treize grinned playfully. "That's a fine thing to say, considering that your clan claims to be the direct descendents of dragons."
"That's DIFFERENT! Dragons are not folktales or legends dreamed up by ignorant peasants huddled around campfires! Demons and ghosts, indeed!" Wufei folded his arms and turned his back on the whole discussion.
"Well, if I might paraphrase a quote from a famous play, 'there are more things on heaven and earth than dreamed of in your philosophy', my little dragon."
"RI-DIC-ulous!" Wufei said firmly.
Zechs and Treize exchanged another significant look, then Treize got up a bit painfully and strolled over to Wufei's side.
"Come, come... don't tell me that a clan as old as yours doesn't have stories about strange happenings... visitations from long dead ancestors... places that remain bone-chilling cold no matter how warm the weather is... foreboding omens...."
"Stop it!" Wufei hissed, hunching his shoulders defensively.
Zechs murmured, "Treize, I DO believe the lad protests too much...."
Treize continued in that soft, coaxing voice of his. "There's no shame in admitting it. Most ancient families, like mine and Milliard's, have their own share of strange tales."
"That's right. In my family's home castle, the servants said that a mysterious lady dressed in blue could be seen roaming the grounds, searching for the grave of her still-born child," Zech said cheerfully.
"I'm not listening to this...." Wufei said in almost a sing-song voice, as he stared with forced nonchalance at the ceiling.
"And I know that particular legend's true," Zechs added smugly.
"Oh?" Treize murmured with a raised eyebrow. "And how's that?"
"Because I saw her myself one night when I was a child. I chased her for some distance. Then she walked out onto a pond and vanished. Poof!" said the OZ pilot with a snap of his fingers.
Treize circled around Wufei and murmured, "Actually, I've heard something similar about this estate...."
"You've noticed it, too," Zechs said.
Behind Wufei's back, he gave Treize a wicked wink. "Things moving
around with no
"The unexpected power and equipment failures? That's right."
Treize was fascinated that Wufei, who had previously been looking rather flushed from the alcohol, was now starting to look extremely pale and twitchy.
"Treize, if this is some game of yours...."
"It's no game. I can pull the maintenance and report logs for you. They're littered with strange little occurrences."
Actually, it was all perfectly true. There HAD been some odd things going on ever since the estate had been taken over by OZ... but only a few more than normal. Maybe the estate WAS haunted, but that didn't bother Treize too much. His childhood home had been packed with various ghosts and other things that went bump in the night. He could tell some truly hair-raising tales....
"My dear dragon, you're looking a trifle pale. Is something wrong?" Behind Wufei's back, Treize could see Zechs' hand silently moving toward the bedside table... and the light controls for the room.
"What do you mean pale?" Wufei blurted out, now looking positively jittery. Normally, if sober, he would have been able to dismiss the whole matter with a contemptuous sneer. However, with his brain still befuddled with all the alcohol still floating around in his body, Wufei Chang's common sense had taken a flying leap out the window.
"Are you sure? Perhaps you should go back to the...." Treize's words abruptly stopped short.
"What? What!? WHAT!?!?" shouted the obviously rattled Chinese pilot.
The OZ general's eyes widened slightly and he slowly pointed behind Wufei.
The boy went very still. Just as he started to turn, the bedroom was suddenly plunged into pitch black darkness.
[OZ command center]
"Backup generators in sectors 2, 5, 7, 15 to 20 are now down!"
"There's reports of unexplained power surges
in the computer systems. The techs are trying to maintain the integrity
of the mainframes but they don't know how long they can do it!"
"Lady Une, our sensors are dead! All I'm getting through radar and the video cameras is static."
Then everything whited out when a tremendous bolt of lightning danced before their eyes.
Duo Maxwell, wearing nothing more than his long, unbraided hair and that nasty little grin, calmly walked past the both terrified and outraged Relena. He perched on the arm of the loveseat, then with an oddly soft expression on his face, he leaned over to gently touch Quatre's cheek He got no response. Apparently satisfied, he reached over and yanked the sodden wad of pantyhose out of Relena's mouth.
As she took a deep breath, he said with a smirk, "You can scream all you want. No one's going to hear you."
Relena gave it her best shot, but unlike other times, Duo didn't even twitch a muscle. Finally, with her throat starting to ache, Relena gave up for the moment.
"Did you kill him?" she said in a quavering voice, tossing her head in Quatre's direction.
Maxwell looked insulted. "Why would I do something like that? Oh no. I just used a little trick from a cousin of mine," he said with a careless shrug of his bare shoulders.
"Cousin? You have relatives?" Relena looked horrified.
"Yeah, I got relatives. Didn't you know? I'm Shinigami and Sleep's the first cousin of Death."
Relena simply looked baffled, then sputtered, "Have you no shame!?"
Duo lifted his arms over his head and stretched sensuously. With a husky laugh, he said, "Oh, you mean this? Come on, Relena. Get with the program! Here you are calling me an evil, soul-sucking demon and you expect me to feel ashamed about not wearing clothes?"
Her mouth opened and closed a few times, as if she was trying to think of some scathing retort. Finally, she sputtered, "You... you... you sick, perverted, lecherous FIEND!"
Duo loosely gathered his long, chestnut hair in one hand and grinned.
"Is that the best you can do?"
She glared at him. "Excuse me! *I* am a well-bred lady!"
"Aw, hell... I'm sure THAT'S really put me in my place!" Duo retorted with a snigger.
She lifted her chin and with an air of martyrdom that would have put Joan of Arc to shame, Relena said defiantly, "Do your worst to my body, you monster! But you won't break me!"
Duo stared at her for a long moment, then toppled of the loveseat arm onto the floor, laughing hysterically.
"You... you... you think that I would... that I'd...."
It took several minutes for him to catch his breath, but Duo finally managed to stop laughing long enough to point at her and choke out, "Listen! You couldn't PAY me enough to put my so-called slimy paws on you! Christ! Where do you get your dialogue? From Z-grade movies?"
Relena wasn't sure whether she should feel offended or relieved.
"Nope! No way, no how...."
"I GOT the POINT!" she shouted at him. After taking a few deep breaths to calm herself, she said with a regal sniff, "Well, if you're not going to do THAT, then I suppose you're going to torture me before taking my life."
Grinning wickedly, Duo said brightly, "Why, it almost sounds like you actually WANT me to do it! I'm shocked! I never realized that you were into that sort of thing, Miss 'I-am-the-perfect-lady' Peacecraft!"
For a second, judging from the alarming shade of Relena's face, it seemed as if she was about to expire from apoplexy.
"YOU... YOU... YOU...!!!" she sputtered in fury.
"Yeah yeah. I know, 'you pervert, you beast, you diabolical monster, yadda-yadda-yadda...." he drawled, looking rather bored.
Elsewhere on Treize's estate, Heero and Trowa were inconspicuously making their way toward the computer center. With all the commotion caused by the electrical outrages and people rushing about, they blended easily into the chaos.
Heero said, "I'll deal with the mainframe. Check the maintenance area and see if you can find some clothes for Duo."
Trowa gave the Wing pilot a critical stare, then nodded once.
"That's NOT what I meant!" Relena snarled. "But if anything happens to me, you're going be hunted down like the beast you are, even if it means chasing you to the edges of space!" She smiled cunningly. "Yes, why don't you kill me? If it takes my death to snap Heero out of your spell, I'll be glad to die!"
"Oh please! Don't tell me we're back to THAT topic again!" Duo muttered, rolling his violet eyes.
"Well, if you're going to do anything, you'd better hurry. People are going to be looking for me soon...."
With a malicious grin, he said, "No, they won't. Believe me, everyone's way too busy to worry about someone like YOU. And even if they did, no one's going to be able to get into this office unless I want them to."
"My secretary will be back any moment now. When she finds out that she can't get inside, she's going to...."
Duo gave Relena an eerie smile as he walked over to one of the filing cabinets near the secretary's desk, opened a drawer, and reached inside.
"No... I don't think so."
When he turned around, Relena's eyes bulged as he took two steps and calmly placed the decapitated head of her secretary on the coffee table in front of her. Although the dead woman's eyes were open, her expression seemed strangely peaceful. However, Relena was in no condition to appreciate that fact.
After her horrified screams finally died down again, she babbled, "Why....!?"
Duo stopped smiling. In an icy voice, he snapped, "Because she was a spy who was feeding information to an extremist faction within OZ. This woman has been steadily leaking all that information that you've so carelessly and blatantly gathered on Heero's movements and activities to her superiors."
"A... a spy?"
He stalked toward the sofa and leaned over her, pinning Relena's shoulders down.
"Do you have ANY idea how many times you've nearly managed to get Heero killed in the last three weeks!? Five of our last seven missions were blown to hell because of your carelessness and stupidity!" He gave her a hard shake. "Haven't you ever heard of the word 'discretion'? How about 'secrecy'!? If it wasn't bad enough to have you and your merry little entourage trailing after us all the time, I bet it never even occurred to you to bother hiding all that information you found, did it? No, you just left this detailed data on a known terrorist scattered all over your desk for absolutely ANYONE to see!"
"I... I didn't mean to...," she stammered.
"You didn't mean to. HA!" Duo shoved her backwards and stalked away in disgust.
"I just... wanted to find Heero...." Relena said in a near-whimper. "How can you possibly know... I needed to see him... talk to him... I had to keep trying to get him to UNDERSTAND... to make him admit how he felt about me!"
Duo stood with his back turned for several minutes, then chuckled quietly. He turned around to face her and said with an odd little smirk, "Now that I think about it, it's rather funny...."
"There's nothing funny about this!" she shouted.
"Oh yes, there is. I just realized that you and I are sort of in the same boat. Ensnared and seduced by a pair of beautiful dark blue eyes...."
"It's... it's not like that!"
He gave her a highly skeptical stare. "Oh really? Then why were you trying to steal a kiss from Heero while he was unconscious, huh?"
"It's much more than just... tawdry SEX...," she snapped as she glared at the nude Duo. "But what on earth could an evil, heartless creature like you know about love!? About two kindred spirits being drawn together by destiny! But I do! I knew there was something special about him the very first time I saw him!"
Duo shook his head ruefully. "Heero really has no idea what he does to people."
Relena added in a near-whine, "And I saw him first!"
Maxwell's violet eyes narrowed dangerously. "What the hell does THAT have to do with Heero's feelings? It's not a matter of 'first come, first served'!"
"I saw him first!" she repeated stubbornly.
He shook his head irritably, sending his long chestnut hair flying. "But if that's the only way you can understand the situation, then I have to tell you that you lose... by about ten years!"
Duo stared almost blindly over Relena's head.
"He was barely six years old... a little, skinny kid with that same wild mop of dark hair and those burning blue eyes.... He was holding a detonator in his hand and carrying a pistol that almost seemed bigger than he was," he murmured wistfully.
"I was surprised that he could see me. But what really got me was that he instantly knew who I was, but he wasn't afraid. That's so unusual, especially for someone so young."
Duo looked down at her. "Have you ever seen him smile, Relena? I don't mean that maniacal grin of his. I mean, REALLY smile...?"
"I... I...," she mumbled as she racked her brain.
"Believe me, if you had, you'd remember it. I've seen Heero smile, Relena. And after all this time, I still think it's the most beautiful thing in the world."
In a deserted security monitoring station on Treize's estate, amid row upon row of video monitors, a slim male figure sat in the darkness. Holding an headphone to his ear, he stared fixedly at the screen in front of him... the only monitor in the entire room which was not totally obscured by static.
As thunder rumbled and lightning flashed, Duo murmured pensively, "I can't help wondering whether I should have taken him that day. It would have spared him so much pain...."
Relena knew that she was missing something important, but couldn't quite figure out what it was.
"Taken him? What do you mean? What the hell ARE you!?" she shouted in frustration.
He smiled coldly at her. "Exactly what I've been saying all along. I run, I hide, but I don't lie....
"I am Shinigami... Death."
And in the next flash of lightning, the shadow of a slim, bat-winged figure danced against the wall.
"I think you overdid it," Zechs noted sourly as he hung over the edge of the bed and peered underneath it.
Looking worried and rather guilty, Treize crouched on the floor and was also peering under the bed.
"Well, how could I know he'd overreact like that!? You said it yourself! He's a Gundam pilot and a trained terrorist! Who'd think he'd be terrified of a few ghost stories. Honestly! Come out, Wufei!"
Under the bed, a shaky voice uttered a faint and defiant, "NO!"
Treize scowled and in an exasperated voice, he said, "We promise we won't let any of the boogie monsters get you. Zechs, turn on the lights...."
The platinum-haired pilot grabbed Treize and whispered into his ear, "But I didn't turn OFF the lights!"
"What!?" a startled Treize whispered back.
"Shhh! I was about to, but the lights went off by themselves. And I've already tried turning them back on, but they're not working. The power's out... I think."
Treize hauled himself to his feet, stalked over to his desk, and hit the intercom. Using audio only, he snapped, "Lady Une! What the devil's going on?"
In a barely understandable voice, she replied, "....sorry, sir... system failures... electrical disturbances... erratic security... doors jammed...."
"No sign...." The rest of her words were lost in a crackle of static and white noise.
Treize quickly made his way to the door to his suite and tried to open it.
It didn't budge.
"Try the manual release," said Zechs.
That didn't work either.
The OZ general stared disgruntledly at the obstinate door and the barred windows of his suite for several moments, then he went to light some candles. In a resigned voice, he said, "Well, it looks like we're stuck here for the duration."
He raided his liquor cabinet and headed back to the bedroom. The flickering light from the candelabra barely managed to pierce the heavy gloom.
"Very romantic atmosphere, wouldn't you say? But I don't think that either of us is up to any more strenuous physical activity today. So, why don't we try something a little more relaxing?" Treize added as he started a fire in the fireplace.
"We can't just leave Wufei cowering and whimpering under the bed!" Zechs objected as he pulled up the bedskirt to take another peek at the Gundam pilot.
They both heard a low, buzzing snore, broken by the occasional muffled honking noise.
"On second thought, I guess we can," Zechs muttered.
"It's said that when one has lemons, make lemonade," Treize said airily. Gesturing expansively at the darkened room, the merrily burning fire, and the raging thunderstorm outside the barred windows, he said cheerfully, "Well, Milliard... do you know any good ghost stories?"
Relena's eyes simply could not go any wider.
"So...." Her breath caught in her throat.
"So what am I going to do with you? To you?"
She nodded slowly.
Relena blinked, then stammered, "But what about the...."
"The pictures?" Duo smiled faintly, reached back inside the file cabinet drawer, and pulled out a folder. "You mean these?" he murmured, holding up a photo.
She flinched. "Yes...."
Taking a look at the picture, he said casually, "Do you know that long ago, people believed that you could sometimes capture psychic impressions in photographs? They ran around taking pictures of haunted houses, looking for ghosts and that sort of thing. They were partially right -- the most unexpected truths can turn up in pictures. What they didn't know is that you have to be sensitive to those types of auras yourself in order to clearly see the psychic images in the photos -- otherwise, all a person will see are some weird blurs."
"You're trying to tell me...."
"That if you showed these photos to most people, at best they'd probably see some very blurry pictures of me stabbing someone in an alleyway with a very mundane knife. And that's it. Somewhat incriminating, I admit, but hardly shocking considering my job as a Gundam pilot."
"But... but... I can clearly...!"
"It's kinda like being able to see a special wavelength of light. You can see it, but others can't. I have to confess that it was a real surprise to me to find out that YOU, of all people, could perceive the image of my true aura. You never struck me as being the most sensitive or perceptive of people. Now Trowa, Quatre, and Wufei all have more than a little psychic ability of their own, but not the right type. However, if Heero could see the real me once before, he could probably do it again."
"And you're afraid that he would recognize you for what you really ARE!"
"And the skeleton... the robes... the scythe...!"
Duo smiled enigmatically. "Everyone has their own particular vision of Death. You see a terrifying black-robed skeleton. I imagine Heero would see something... rather different."
"So you did all this to discredit me!?" Relena screamed.
"Discredit you?" Duo said with a snort. "You managed to do that yourself without the slightest help from me! I really didn't have to do a thing except trim off some loose ends. As for these pictures... well, it was really just a weird stroke of luck that this photographer managed to catch my real self on film. It occasionally happens." he said with a shrug.
Relena cringed as the photographs in Duo's hand ignited in a flash of green flame and vanished. There wasn't even a trace of ash left behind.
"And with both the photos and the negatives gone, you're left with a big fat zero. You can play Cassandra all you want -- it'll be your word against mine. And I think we both know who's going to win that contest."
She cowered back as Duo sat down beside her on the sofa.
"You know, I was all set to kill you for all the trouble and danger you've put Heero through, especially with that moronic kidnapping attempt...."
Relena's terrified gaze drifted back to the decapitated head of her secretary sitting on her coffee table.
"But I've changed my mind. I've decided to let you live, even though that's not necessarily a mercy."
"Why am I sparing your life?" Duo gave her an oddly sad smile. "I'd never thought that I'd have occasion to be grateful to you, Relena... but I am. Because of what you did to Heero today... even though he was drugged out of his mind, I still got to hear Heero say that he loved me. And for that, I can forgive nearly anything."
Part 6 / Conclusion
[on Treize's estate]
With a dark green maintenance uniform tucked under his arm, Trowa quickly glanced into the computer center, but failed to find any sign of Heero. Noting the thin trails of smoke starting to emerge from the computer equipment, he prudently decided to leave the area before the fire alarms went off.
The Heavyarms pilot frowned slightly. Had he been wrong in believing that Heero was no longer suffering the side effects of the drugs? Because if he *was* wrong, there was no telling where the Wing pilot might be at the moment.
He decided to search the rooms adjacent to the computer
center, on the off-chance that Heero would be working in one of them.
Behind the third door he checked, Trowa found his fellow Gundam pilot staring
into a video monitor. But before he catch a glimpse of whatever interested
Heero so intensely, the Wing pilot abruptly switched off the monitor.
Without saying a word, Heero reached down and pulled out a disk from one of the video recorders, then joined Trowa in the hallway. He appeared to be his normal self again, with his usual expressionless face and the familiar cold, blue-eyed stare.
"Are you finished?" was Trowa's only words.
"Yes," came Heero's equally curt reply.
Heero and Trowa walked into the waiting room to find both Quatre and Relena happily snoozing. When Trowa touched the blond pilot lightly on the shoulder, Quatre sat up with a yawn and blinked in mild confusion.
Stifling another yawn, the blond pilot answered Trowa's inquiring glance by murmuring, "The lack of sleep must really be catching up with me." He glanced curiously at Heero, who seemed to be looking around the waiting room with unusual intensity, even for him.
As he watched Heero open up a filing cabinet, Quatre asked, "Is there anything wrong? Are you looking for something?"
"No," Heero said with his usual flat monotone, closing the filing cabinet with a decisive gesture. He walked over to Trowa, took the clothes from the Heavyarms pilot, and headed for Relena's office.
Trowa quietly said, "What about her?"
Heero stopped and glanced back at Relena. He stared silently at her for a long moment, then turned to look at Duo who was still fast asleep on the desktop.
Quatre frowned slightly. "But Heero, what if she keeps making those ridiculous accusations about Duo?"
"Let her," Heero said with chilling indifference. "She'll only make a worse fool of herself."
"Aren't you worried that someone might eventually believe her?" Quatre fretted.
"Only fools and madmen would believe that creatures like demons or angels exist in this day and age." There was a brief gleam in Heero's cobalt eyes which nearly made the Arab pilot shiver. But it was gone in a flash and Quatre ended up dismissing it as a quirk of overactive imagination.
Heero turned his back on the sleeping girl and walked over to Duo, who was still huddled under Relena's coat, snoring away. The Wing pilot silently lifted the soft cashmere away from Duo's face, then stood there for a brief moment. He neither spoke nor moved, but simply stared down at the long-haired Deathscythe pilot peacefully dozing atop the desk.
Heero abruptly shook off his pensive mood and gave Duo's bare shoulder a hard shake.
"Wha...?" Duo blinked sleepily. His words ended in a squawk of outrage as Heero brusquely shoved Duo off the desk, then dumped the dark green coveralls on top of the other's head.
"Wake up and get dressed. We're moving out," the Wing pilot said curtly.
Duo groaned, brushed his tangled hair out of his eyes, and muttered, "Geez, Heero, so much for the romantic mood!" as he rubbed a sore hip.
The only response Duo got was a stony, unapologetic glare and a flat, "Shut up."
"Chi! I guess everything's back to normal. Bummer." Duo stuck his tongue out at Heero's back as the Wing pilot efficiently began removing any trace of their presence in Relena's office.
Despite his complaints and groans, it only took Duo a few minutes to get dressed and ready to leave. He soon gave up trying to untangle the knots in his hair and settled for pulling it back into a messy ponytail. By that time, Heero had retrieved all the remnants of Duo's old clothes, picked up the papers and other miscellaneous desk items scattered all over the floor, and basically put the office into some semblance of normality.
As Duo entered the waiting room, he glanced at the sleeping Relena and stopped short. Jerking a thumb in her direction, he asked, "Heero, what are you planning to do about her? Aren't you going to...."
The Wing pilot said coldly, "I have nothing further to say to her." He grabbed Duo's ponytail and dragged him out into the hallway without another word. Trowa and Quatre quickly followed, leaving behind the bound, but now ungagged Relena loudly snoring on the sofa.
Their escape from the estate turned out to be a total anticlimax -- no high-speed chases, no huge explosions, no raging gunfights.... The various electrical and computer failures had left the OZ forces in such a disorganized state that it was pathetically simple for the four Gundam pilots to slip out of the compound unnoticed. By unspoken agreement, they decided to move to a new safehouse... just in case.
Wufei Chang could remember waking up in Treize's bed, on Treize's sofa... tied up, tied down... but he had never woken up UNDER Treize's bed. He slowly crawled out, clutched his throbbing skull in his hands, and wondered what the hell had happened that afternoon. And where the devil were Treize and Zechs?
Wufei was vaguely relieved to find himself still fully dressed. As he attempted to get his extremely reluctant brain working again, he staggered over to the sofa, only to find Treize and Zechs curled up against each other on the floor amid a clutter of burnt out candles and numerous empty liquor bottles. They looked rather like a pair of snoozing puppies.
As he tried his best to keep his head from falling off his shoulders, the Chinese pilot swore up and down that he would never touch another drop of that devilish alcohol again. Wufei slowly made his way to the bathroom, gulped the first painkillers he could get his hands on, then stuck his head into a basin of icy cold water.
After a half hour, he was feeling semi-human again. Wufei was just about to slip away when a small heap of printouts caught his eye. He took a second glance, then hastily flipped over the lurid pictures of Heero and Duo before he could get another nosebleed. The Chinese pilot scowled a moment, then reluctantly headed back toward Treize's computer.
[the pilots' new safehouse]
Several hours later, as the other pilots were getting settled in their new hideout, Wufei stalked into the house. He scowled at Duo and Heero, then tossed a sheaf of printouts onto the table.
"You owe me," was all he said before stomping
off to find a place to dump his own meager belongings.
Duo thumbed through the papers, then stared irately at Heero. "I thought you said you got rid of Relena's file...!"
"I did," Heero snapped.
When Wufei walked back into the room, Duo started to ask him, "Hey, where did you get this stuff...?" However, his question trailed off in a startled "Meep!" as Wufei marched over to him and gave the Deathscythe pilot a long, searching stare from only a few inches away.
With their noses practically touching, Duo clutched the printouts to his chest and stammered, "Errr... is there something wrong, Wufei...?"
The Shen Long pilot gave Duo a decidedly suspicious scowl. He could vaguely remember some discussion about Maxwell.... A hazy, disturbing memory stirred briefly in his aching brain, but it slipped away from his grasp. As Duo continued give him a startled, wide-eyed stare, Wufei shrugged and turned away with a disgusted snort.
"What the hell was that all about?" a thoroughly bewildered Duo muttered.
"It's nothing important," Wufei said irritably, as he rubbed his forehead in a futile attempt to massage away the remainder of his hangover.
"Uh... o-kay, if you say so. But about these pictures...."
The Chinese pilot muttered, "That crazy female sent Treize an separate email message repeating her asinine accusations." Before Duo could interrupt, Wufei growled, "Don't worry, I erased all traces of her message AND the pictures." His deadly glare warned against any attempt to discover just how he managed to do that.
"Uhh... thanks, Wufei," Duo said.
The Chinese pilot shrugged and stalked out the door in search of some peace and quiet... not to mention a large icebag.
Later that evening after dinner, Heero went looking for Duo. He found his quarry sitting at Deathscythe's feet, struggling to brush the tangles out of his long hair.
Duo glanced up to see Heero scowling at him.
"What's up?" he asked brightly.
Heero tossed a data disk at Duo, who reflexively caught it, and snapped, "You shouldn't be so careless."
"Careless?" the violet-eyed pilot said with an air of bewilderment as he turned the disk over in his hand. "What the hell's this? That stupid computer virus?"
"No. It's the most recent surveillance video for Relena's office and waiting room."
Duo froze with a shocked look on his face and blurted out, "But that IMPOS-sible...." His voice abruptly trailed off, then he slowly lowered his head. With his long, brown bangs hiding his eyes, Duo uttered a rueful little chuckle.
"I see. I suppose you heard and saw... everything."
"Yes." Heero was silent for a long moment, then added in a disturbingly cold voice, "I remember you now. Somewhere in the back of my mind, something about Duo Maxwell always seemed strangely familiar. Now I know why."
Duo released a deep sigh. Without looking up, he continued to turn the disk over in his fingers as he quietly said, "So I guess it's pretty useless for me to pretend that it was all a sick joke on Relena."
When Heero remained silent, Duo peeked upward through
his bangs and quipped, "Gee, no waving of guns? No threats of
'Omae o korosu?"
"Considering what you are, that's rather pointless, I think."
Duo shrugged carelessly. "Okay. So what now?"
"A few questions."
"Naturally. I'm sure you're just *dying* for some answers."
Heero merely glared at the other boy and snapped, "Who, when, and how?"
"Huh?" Duo blinked in confusion. "You know, most people would be asking 'What the hell are you?' and 'Why the hell are you here?' That sort of thing."
"I already know what you are and I can guess... why... from your conversation with Relena."
Duo smacked himself lightly on the forehead. "Damn it, you DID hear everything."
"Yes." In a frighteningly calm voice, Heero said, "I want to know exactly when this masquerade of yours started."
Duo leaned back against his Gundam's leg and held up his hands. "If you're worried that I somehow sneakily managed to dispose of the real Duo Maxwell and take over his body or junk like that in the last couple of weeks... well, don't be. I'm the exact same person you've known for the last year or more. I've always BEEN Duo Maxwell."
"Is Duo Maxwell a real person or just some convenient fabrication?" Heero coolly inquired.
The long-haired pilot said evenly, "Duo Maxwell
is a very real person. *I'M* a real person, Heero. I bleed.
I feel pain. I hurt. But if you're asking when Shinigami first entered
the picture.... Well, soon after I saw you for the first time, I ended up
at L2 colony. There was a virulent plague going around and the people
in the ghettos were dying in droves. An antidote existed, but the
colony's administrators didn't want to waste valuable resources distributing
such an expensive drug to a bunch of penniless nobodies.
"While I was there, I came across two street kids. One was already dead from the plague. The other boy was alive, but infected. I knew that in less than a day, I'd be back for him, too. But when I noticed that he looked a lot like me, I got a crazy idea." He shrugged a shoulder. "So I called in a few favors and sort of... I guess you could say 'merged' with that kid.... I was him, he was me.
"And so here I am -- the one and only Duo Maxwell. It's just that... I happen to be Shinigami, too."
Heero asked in an emotionless voice, "If you're really Death...."
Duo rubbed the back of his neck and grinned a bit sheepishly, "Well, if you want to be really picky about it, I'm *A* Death. There's others who do the same sort of job I do. Believe me, there's more than enough work to go around!"
The Wing pilot shook his head irritably. "So on a mere whim, you decided to pretend that you're an ordinary human being?"
With a wistful little smile, Duo said, "Why not? I deserved a well-earned vacation."
"For over a decade?"
"These things are relative. I've been working non-stop for... oh, a very VERY long time.... Even if there aren't wars going on, people are constantly dying from all sorts of reasons... disease, accident, violence, even plain old age. I suppose I just... got tired of it all."
"So that's all it is for you? A way to spend a few decades? A frivolous little game with us puny humans?"
Duo shook his head somberly. "Oh no. It's anything BUT a game to me." He slowly walked up to Heero. "You see, my real reason for taking a human form... well, it's because I was... because I wanted to be with you...."
"But isn't hanging around with me rather like taking a working holiday? Not much of a vacation, is it? Or is that the real reason why you decided to stick around?" Heero retorted, his lips curling upward in a bitter smile.
Duo shouted, "No! That's not it at all! I did all this because I wanted to be together with you and ONLY you. Don't you get it? I love you! I think I loved you from the moment I saw you, all those years ago!"
In a cynical voice, Heero asked, "But if you really want us to be together, then why are you interested in keeping me alive? Why bother saving my life on all those occasions?"
Duo grabbed Heero's shoulders. "Because I don't want to lose you...!"
"How can you lose me?" Heero snapped. "After all, you're Death, aren't you? I'm going to be yours eventually. And considering the sort of life I lead, it's likely to be much sooner rather than later."
"Don't you think I know that better than anybody!?" Duo shouted.
Taken aback by the pain in the other boy's voice, Heero's tense expression eased slightly.
"Then what are you waiting for?"
The Deathscythe pilot shook his head slowly.
"That's... not how it works, Heero. I'm not some kooky collector of souls. It's my JOB to release people's spirits from their bodies so they can go on to their just rewards."
Duo gestured wildly. "You know... heaven... hell... rebirth... whatever the fates, judges of the dead, or destiny decide. You wouldn't believe the bureaucracy and red tape! But the point is that I don't KEEP any of the souls I take! Once you die, Heero, off you go and that's IT!"
Heero stared at the panting Deathscythe pilot for a long moment. Then he finally said, almost disbelievingly, "Are you afraid of being left ALONE?"
"...." Duo abruptly whirled and turned his back to Heero.
The long-haired pilot refused to turn around. In the faintest of voices, he whispered, "They all leave... that's what they always do...."
"What did you say?"
Duo twitched slightly, then spun around and said with slightly forced cheerfulness, "Oh, nothing!"
In an off-handed way, the long-haired pilot added, "Freed souls are always running off somewhere." He shrugged carelessly. "Places to go, things to do, people to see... that sort of thing. They usually don't bother to stick around to talk. And the ones that do linger... well, they're the undead, the ghosts, the spirits obsessed with something from their mortal lives. And like Relena, obsessed souls aren't the most entertaining of conversationalists."
Duo found himself backing up as Heero stalked forward, until he ended up pinned against Deathscythe.
"Is that it?" Heero asked softly. "You're afraid I'm going to leave you alone once I die?"
Duo tried to look away, but Heero grabbed his chin and forced him to meet his cobalt-blue stare. In low, furious tones, the Wing pilot snarled, "Did you think that when I said, 'I love you,' I was just JOKING?"
"C'mon, Heero. You know that you NEVER would have said it if you weren't drugged out of your mind at the time!" Duo retorted. Then his expression turned wistful. "But I was really glad to hear you say it... even if you didn't know what you were doing."
"Baka. I knew exactly what I was doing. I just couldn't stop myself. Maybe I wouldn't have said it under normal circumstances, but the fact that I wasn't exactly in total control of myself doesn't mean that I was lying to you."
Duo's hand slowly crept upward to grab a hold of Heero's tanktop. "So... are you trying to tell me that when you said...." He was almost afraid to believe what he was hearing.
The Wing pilot scowled at his lover. "When I told that I'd love you forever, that's EXACTLY what I meant!"
"And now that you know what I really am...."
"That doesn't change anything. I wasn't afraid of you when I was a child. I'm not about to be afraid of you now."
"But... does that mean you're not the slightest bit worried that Relena might be right when she claimed that I could control people's minds?"
"Ignoring the fact that Relena's an obvious nutcase to begin with, I don't care if she IS right about that."
"Heero!? You're not serious!"
"I'm perfectly serious." Heero leaned even closer to Duo. "Don't you understand? All my life, I've felt separate... detached... like there was a thick glass wall between myself and the world. I could see, but couldn't touch.... A dying man once told me to 'Live according to your feelings.' But before I met you, it was almost impossible to figure out just what those feelings were. Somehow, you broke through that wall of mine... gave me a connection to the rest of the world... made me WHOLE.
"I like that feeling, Duo. Having lived so long without real emotions, I know just how precious it is. And if through some incredible longshot, Relena turns out to be right with her babblings about mind control... well, as I said before, I really don't CARE."
Duo's amethyst eyes darkened with emotion, then he flung his arms around Heero and held him as close as he could possibly manage.
Wrapping his own arms around Duo's body, Heero whispered quietly, "Strange... it took Death itself to teach me how to be alive...."
Behind Heero's back, Duo held up the video disk in his hand and frowned slightly. No, he *hadn't* forgotten to blank out the security camera in Relena's waiting room. Then how on earth did Heero manage to see....
The black-clad pilot froze, then glanced upward at the night sky with a rueful grin on his face.
Feeling Duo's body stiffen, Heero quickly pulled back and said, "What's wrong?"
Duo shook his head quickly and burst into merry laughter. He tossed the video recording into the air where it disintegrated in a flash of green flame, then shoved Heero back onto the thick grass and pounced on him.
As he started to drop slow, tantalizing kisses on Heero's face, Duo murmured, "Forever, Heero?"
"Forever and always."
And as Heero grabbed a hold of his lover's long hair and pulled his head down to show him how to *really* kiss, Duo thought he felt soft, feathery wings encircle him and hold him close.
And somewhere, on some distant extra-dimensional plane, two great towering figures faced off.
"He's finally learned how to truly feel,"
the glowing figure with incandescently white feathered wings noted with
"He's no longer lonely," commented the ominous, shadow-shrouded and bat-winged figure with a raspy sigh of relief.
The light and the darkness shook hands, grinned smugly at each other, and said in chorus....
~~~ OWARI ~~~
<wild victory dance>
My very *first* completed multi-part fanfic! ^_^
The Full Disclaimer
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trademarks and property of Sunrise, Bandai, Sotsu Agency, and
associated parties. The characters of these works are used WITHOUT
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fiction is not meant for sale or profit.
Original portion of the fiction included here is considered to be
the sole property and copyrighted to the author.